Meet my right foot.


This is what it looked like in summer 2004, which I spent in India.

Pretty gross, right? What happed, you’re asking? On the night train I slipped off the iron stairs to the upper bed and fell. My foot was broken in various places, a few muscles torn, the whole shebang. My India experience was put on hold for 3 weeks which I was ordered to spend in bed all day and all night. Imagine how much fun that is without a TV or Internet. At the time I was supposed to be teaching at the University and even though I had friends who were teachers as well, they never got home until 7 or 8 so i had some awfully long days lying around.

The good news is that it could have been worse (whatever happens, never forget that it could always be worse) and I got a lot of reading done. My foot is back in shape now, too.

While traveling will provide you with some of the best times in your life, it may also account for some bad ones and there is always some risk traveling alongside with you. From my personal experience, I will make a list of a few things that may (but hopefully won’t) happen to you and what you can do about them.

Theft & Robbery – a shitty problem that happens again and again in various shape or form. The light version is that someone steals your bag on the nightbus or from your hotel room when you don’t even notice it. In more extreme cases you may be threatened to hand over your valuables. In this case, don’t panic and just calmly hand over your wallet. It is actually recommended to always carry the local equivalent of $20 to have ready for handover if someone comes to rob you (you do not want to piss off a robberer by saying you have no cash on you). Especially in South America you want to make sure you don’t walk alone in empty streets, that is asking for trouble.

Travel rule number 1: CARRY YOUR PASSPORT, SOME CASH AND A CREDIT CARD UNDERNEATH YOUR CLOTHES AT ALL TIMES. An incredibly important rule, so no exeptions here.

travel pack

Equally important: Always consult your Lonely Planet for the Dangers & Annoyances section BEFORE you travel to a particular city or country. The list of what to worry about is endless, but your guidebook will prepare you for the worst.

Illness – When traveling 3rd world countries, getting sick at one point or another is nearly inevitable. If you’re suffering from diarrhae and or vomiting carry Imodium and Antibiotics (consult your pharmacist of choice) to treat yourself. If you experience a fever or your diarrhea is not getting better after 3 days, do consult a doctor. Your guidebook (we recommend Lonely Planet) should list clinics and doctors in the area you’re traveling. Avoid eating food from the street (I have horrendous memories of a deepfried banana snack in india), ice cubes and unpeeled fruit. Once sick, stick to plain rice, bread and bananas. Ideal are salty sticks or pretzels if you can find any. Supposedly soda is good, too.

Broken Bones. Ouch. Not a pretty thing to happen. When traveling with a friend, you simply have them organise your way to the nearest doctor (in 3rd world countries, ideally ask for a private clinic, to get quick and high quality treatment). The trouble starts when you’re alone. Severeal options here. Step one, find someone who speaks a language you understand, then put them in charge of getting you into a cab and to a clinic. I strongly recommend carrying a cell phone on you that you can use for emergency situations. This would be one. Call a hotel/tourist info/clinic and arrange for someone to come pick you up whereever you are if you cannot move. If things are really bad, fly home, otherwise check into a decent hotel with room service to pamper you until you’re better.

Drug busts – Personally I am 100% drug-free and also don’t recommend for anyone to be consuming or owning drugs when traveling for the risks inviolved are simply too high. I have heard countless stories or police corruption or set-ups and you may spend a very long and painful time in prison if you get caught. When me and my friend Bea traveled from Venezuela to the Brazilian Border they caught a a passenger on our bus trying to smuggle kilos of cocain. Not only did they arrest him, they also transported the remaining 7 passengers on the bus to an army station in the middle of nowhere and asked us to take all(!) our clothes off for inspection. Bea and I can laugh about it today but at the time it was pretty scary.

Natural catastrophes and political uproar Most important is to always check the info on the website of your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It should tell you what the current safety status of a particular country is and whether it is recommended or not to visit. Often it’s enough to exercise special caution. Often, Lonely Planet talks about recurring safety issues in specific countries and will give good advice on safety measures. For first-hand advice ask fellow travellers what they know about the region you’re planning to visit and whther they think it’s safe. When in doubt, it might be better to be safe than sorry and postpone a particular trip for another time.

The South America chapter

South America, was hands down, the most wonderful continent to travel. The different countries are the best mix of culture, fun and exitement and made it the best 6 months of my life. HOWEVER, other than for example Asia, South America is not the safest place to travel. At least half the people I have met who traveled have some sort of crime-related story to tell. Usually I am a supporter of traveling alone, but when backpacking through Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador as well as parts of Peru I  recommend traveling with a friend or group if you can. It doesn’t have to be someone from home, maybe just people you met at your last hotel. We also recommend you post a shout out in our forum that you’re traveling to South America and are interested in meeting others who are going at the same time.

I hope none of those things will happen to you, but if they do – it surely isnt the end of the world and you know what they say about stuff that doesn’t kill you, right? At the end of the day you’ll always have an exiting story to tell your kids at home.

What’s the worst thing that has happened to you while traveling? Write it down in a story and email it to and we’ll be sure to publish it.

Safe travels,